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Colm Murphy interview was in the public interest

THE outcome of yesterday's High Court case involving The Irish News and the Chief Constable of the PSNI was clearly an important one in terms of press freedom but there is reason to believe that it also represented another step towards finally establishing the truth about the appalling Kingsmill massacre of 1976.

Counsel for George Hamilton told the court that he had ended his legal attempt to prevent this newspaper from identifying the veteran Co Louth republican Colm Murphy who has been allegedly linked by a palm print to a getaway van used after the atrocity.

The lawyer accepted that the Chief Constable's bid to secure an injunction was `pointless', as The Irish News had already carried a full interview with Murphy in its print and digital editions over the course of Friday night and Saturday morning.

However, there will still be considerable surprise over the sequence of events which followed a series of highly unusual telephone calls made by the Crown Solicitor's Office (CSO) to the news editor, editor and managing director of this paper over the same period.

The CSO lawyer said she was seeking an assurance that The Irish News would not name the suspect allegedly connected to the palm print but despite repeated requests did not offer any legal basis for such a move and would only say that publication of his identity would `hinder the investigation.'

When The Irish News, having considered this intervention, resolved that it was in the public interest to continue with publication, we were informed at 12.15am on Saturday that an application for an injunction would take place at the High Court 15 minutes later.

With the full print run of the paper having been completed at that time, and the online version of our coverage also in place, the hearing was adjourned until Monday morning when as noted the application was eventually withdrawn.

It needs to be stressed that the palm print in question had been in the possession of the authorities for four decades, but the announcement that it had been linked to an individual was only made during the much delayed inquest into the ten Kingsmill murders last week.

The name of Colm Murphy, who was held liable for the catastrophic 1998 Omagh bombing in a civil court ruling, was in circulation through social media and elsewhere and he willingly gave the interview to The Irish News in which he claimed that he was being set up for political reasons.

A further instalment of Murphy’s account carried yesterday also outlined shocking claims on his part about IRA conspiracies to `ethnically cleanse’ south Armagh of Protestants in the wake of the Kingsmills slaughter. As such, it deserves the most detailed scrutiny.

We remain fully committed to respecting due legal procedure but in the circumstances we also remain convinced that the publication of our interview with Murphy was most certainly in the public interest.

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